Taste of Spain in London

On the 28th May I attended the ‘Feria de Londres’ in the wonderful setting of Potters Fields Park on the banks of the river Thames overlooked by Tower bridge.

Over the bank holiday weekend the park was transformed into a celebration of all things Spanish including music, flamenco and wonderful food,tapas and drink.

I arrived early, the stalls and stages were being set up and the atmosphere was building as was the smell of different kinds of Spanish foods drifting across the park. There was lots of pop up bars serving ‘Cruzcampo’ beer, white and red wine and the excellent ‘Tio Pepe’ Fino sherry.

From about 12.00pm the sun came out and the festivities got underway as the noise level got louder as more and more people arrived. Before it got too busy I booked myself onto a Iberico Ham and Sherry Materclass and received my complementary drink and food tokens as I was there on behalf of ‘Mid Week Wines’.

With class booked I set out to enjoy the afternoon, first stop was the bar where I got a pretty large glass of chilled Tio Pepe Palamino Fino sherry which was just what was needed as the temperature and humidity was steadily rising.

For those of you who haven’t tasted the delights of Fino and Manzanilla sherry they are a delight with salty almonds and olives and as I found out later a real winner when paired with Iberico ham. This particular bottle of Tio Pepe (which needs to be served very cold) was extremely dry, a little yeasty but with a saline edge which smelled of the sea. There was also some lemon peel in the background and the finish was fresh if a little bitter

Food was next on the agenda and I got myself a freshly made plate of Valencian Paella made up of chicken, broad beans and green beans.

Next up was the Iberico Ham Masterclass with Jose Sol (Spanish ham Master) Complete with more Tio Pepe sherry which complimented the ham beautifully.

Iberico ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during this last period. It is also known as jamón ibérico de Montanera. The exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months. Here Jose taught us about the different styles and quality of ham culminating in the excellent Pata Negra (best quality) ham from the black pig.

As well as the Toi Pepe Jose introduced us to a cold soup like substance called Salmorejo which he actually made that morning (basically soaked bread with tomatoes, garlic and lemon sprinkled with ham and sometimes sliced boiled egg), this again complemented the ham beautifully if a little garlicky. It was a very informative masterclass and big thanks to Jose for sharing his knowledge with us, I certainly learned a lot.

The afternoon and evening carried on with more drink (yes another glass of Sherry), food and Flamenco with  a performance by Tomasito (Flamenco dancer and singer) with lots of ladies and children dressed in traditional outfits.

The Feria de Londres was a free event and I for one will be back next year, Viva Espana

Majestic Stratford Upon Avon Fine Wine Tasting April 2017

As regular readers will know that I belong to a wine Forum called ‘Cuvée Reserve’ and once a year our group meet up for a weekend of basically, drinking lots of wine. This year we met at Stratford Upon Avon and we thought we would signed up for a ‘Fine Wine Tasting’ at the local Majestic store. An initial fee of £20 per person was paid but that is redeemable on any wine purchases after the event.

Big thanks to our head girl Clare who runs the forum and for organising everything so superbly !

We arrived at 1.30pm on Saturday the 8th April, an early start for drinking I know but we have to make sacrifices sometime. There was a slight confusion with the time as they had us down for 2.00pm which we found out was their mistake but it wasn’t a problem as we spent the time browsing around the store with a glass of Moet & Chandon 2008 Champagne (is there a better way to shop).

A table was laid out in the corner of the store for us as we finally settled down for the tasting first up was the Moet & Chandon again. This was a beautifully balanced single vintage Champagne full of intense apple and lemon fruit, lively mousse with a pronounced bready, nutty and a creamy aftertaste producing a very long, extremely enjoyable finish and loved by everyone. (Top ups were not refused).

Second wine was a Rosé the Miraval 2015 Cotes de Provence bought by Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie in 2009 and made by the Perrin family. Pale pink almost Salmon like colour with a very strange almost peaty aroma although there was a hint of strawberry, it just smelt a bit weird. Taste wise again it was not what we expected there were elements of soft fruit including strawberry, peach and pear. Slightly flowery but with a slightly overpowering herby, earthy flavour which most of us found a bit strange, think my wife and I liked it more than the others, so overall a little bit of a miss.

Third was the impressive Greywackey 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand and made by Cloudy Bay former wine maker Kevin Judd.  From the first sip this was universally applauded by all of us. Superb aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit, flowers and damp freshly mowed grass. On first sip it was greeted by a lot of M’mms and everyone thought it was stunning. Crisp and vibrant, soft acidity with intense flavours of  lemongrass, white flowers, gooseberry and herbs with just a hint of subtle oak rounding it off.  Refills all around and the bottle didn’t last long, superb stuff.

The Last white was an unusual oaked Chardonnay from Italy, the Planeta 2015 with heady aromas of butterscotch, banana and vanilla. On first taste I was initially hit by what tasted like barley sugar along with caramelised banana, there was a creaminess about it and the oak definitely stood out, again this split us although nobody disliked it and I thought it was very good.

With the whites finished next up were the reds starting with a Pinot Noir from Martinborough New Zealand the impressive Escarpment 2014 generally liked by all. Pronounced aromas of soft dark fruits, smokey and earthy. Cherry and plums to the fore with a kick of spice on the palate, earthiness coming through but not intrusive. Nicely balanced wine.

Next up was a big favourite, the Chateau Haut Balailley 2011  but it comes at a price for a whopping £40 per single bottle. Cherries, Cassis and classic pencil shavings on the nose. Love the taste, complex yet harmonious, blackcurrants, cedarwoood, herbs, notable tannins and really really drinkable on its own.  As you can see from the picture we emptied the bottle.

A Gran Reserva Rioja next the Marques de Riscal 2007 this is everything a Rioja should be full of red cherries a little strawberry, leather, incense, oak, candlewax and tobacco. Ten year old wine that went down well with everybody including my wife who doesn’t generally like oakey Riojas, fabulous example of what Spain does well.

This was suppose to be the end of the tasting, but the guys at Majestic (who were very good, amiable and knowledgeable) decided we were enjoying ourselves so much that they opened up another couple of bottle for us to try.

First was another French red the Caronne Ste-Gemme 2011 Haut Medoc and again enjoyed by all, dark ripe blackberries, menthol, tannic, rich and chocolately but this time, I’d have to say, more of a food wine but none the less enjoyable.

Last but not least a black Muscat dessert wine called Elysium 2015 even if you’re not a fan of dessert wines you cannot fail to be impressed with this. smells like Turkish Delight and that rose like flavour carries on in the taste, not overly sweet and a big thumbs up from all around the table.

Thanks to the guys at Majestic for a superb tasting, (one of the better ones I’ve attended) they were very generous letting us drink as much as we wanted and we all went away pretty happy if a little unsteady.

My rating 9/10 Corks (for the whole tasting)

Spanish Sauvignon Blanc – anybody ?

jose-pariente-sb-2014In the Rueda region in the heart on the Iberian peninsula where Verdejo and Viura are kings, Sauvignon Blanc also plays a part even if it is overshadowed. The grapes for this wine come from the first Sauvignon Blanc vines planted in this area around 30 years ago and has resulted in this deliciously bright and fruity Jose Periente SB 2014.

This is more of a cross between French and New Zealand SB’s as it has elements of both, darkish straw like colour in the glass with bright fresh citrus fruits on the nose with some tropical passion fruit and a whiff of freshly cut grass.

Taste wise it is more subdued but still with a touch of bright acidic citrus fruits, again a little tropical sweetness and grassiness but finishing quite vegetal with green peppers, maybe even a little fresh pea pods and herbs.

I really enjoyed this and paired with steamed fresh Haddock it was even better. I bought this at Majestic for around £9.99 a little while ago but not sure if they still sell it but if you can find it give it a go you may well be surprised how good it is.

I tend to like Verdejo, Viura, Albarino, Godello to name a few but this is definitely up there with the best of Spanish white wines I’ve tasted recently.

8.5corks

My rating 8.5/10 Corks

Majestic ?    around £10

 

 

Lidl beauty – Gran Reboreda 2015

reboreda1Popped into Lidl supermarket recently and picked up this unusual blend  from the Ribiero (Galicia) region which is situated in north west Spain.

The bottle caught my eye as it featured one of my favourite white grapes Godello although with this one it’s a small part of a blend with Treixadura which is the predominant grape around 80% (used mainly in the making of Portuguese Vinho Verde) also featuring is another lesser known grape Loureira.

This is a very tall elongated bottle which might be a problem if storing in the fridge upright, when poured it’s a very pale straw like colour with fairly muted aromas even after hovering with my nose stuck in the glass for a while it was hard to pick out anything apart from citrus fruits, mainly lemons, there was also a faint whiff of herbs and flowers.

reboreda

The taste is where this wine shines, it’s very dry with a bright tangy lemon flavour, followed by what tasted like dried mixed herbs. Very fleshy weighty texture and a long satisfying finish.

As part of the new Lidl range this retails at £8.99 and on first tasting, in my opinion, worth every penny, I absolutely loved it, thoroughly recommend it  and even though I haven’t got a Lidl  local to me I will be making a trip to the nearest store to buy some more.

Unfortunately Lidl seem to change their wines pretty rapidly so I don’t know how long they will have this on the shelf but if you want to try something different I urge you to go out quickly and get some, hopefully you won’t be disappointed, top stuff !!

8.5corksMy rating 8.5/10 Corks

Lidl £8.99

Two everyday Spanish reds

albaicampo-vTwo Spanish reds take to the stage this time, easily available from most supermarkets and for the quality, reasonably priced.

Both from the Rioja region of Northern Spain, one a 100% Tempranillo and one 100% Garnacha and made in a modern style, with the focus very much on the pure fruit.

Campo Viejo has been around for along time is very well known and features on the shelves of many supermarkets, the Albai you can find mainly in Tesco and Sainsburys.

As I mentioned earlier both these wines are made in a modern style and are very fruit forward, so lets start with the Albai. Firstly the bottle itself which is surprisingly heavy and chunky, when poured the wine has a fairly dense dark purple colour with prominent aromas of cherries and strawberries this follows through in the taste which gives an instant mouthful of juicy bright red fruits. Although slightly tart initially there is a hint of appealing sweetness which comes through on the finish. For an entry-level unoaked Rioja 13% ABV, this wine may well hit the spot for a lot of people but if you prefer a bit of oaked woodiness in your wine that’s still made in the modern style then perhaps for a few pounds more the Reserva is the one to go for, which is in my opinion, excellent.

Next, I think most people would have heard of Campo Viejo with its distinctive labels, most of you guys must have tried their Rioja Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva but how many of you have tried their Garnacha ? ( if you click on the link you will see my thoughts on this CV Garnacha, second review down, when I was a member of the Tesco Wine Forum under the name spikedc, although it was for the 2012 vintage). Unlike the Albai this CV wine has been aged for 4 months in American oak barrels and this comes through in the taste, so as well as the sweet red fruits (think of those cherry drop sweets) there is a soft vanilla creaminess about it. Be warned though this is 14% ABV and can creep up on you pretty quickly.

So overall, both pretty good everyday wines without being too complex, both appeal in their bright fruity flavours and both are very easy to drink.

7corks

Castillo de Albai Rioja 2015

My Rating 7/10 Cork

 

7corks

Campo Viejo Garnacha 2015

My Rating 7/10 Corks

The three wine review

tale-of-three-winesThis week I review three contrasting wines, a South African Chenin Blanc, a Chilean Chardonnay and a rather nice Spanish Monastrell.

Firstly the Chardonnay from a new range launched by Morrisons called the Head Honcho which also includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot, these are all the sole property of Morrisons. Aimed primarily at the younger market with its bright eye-catching labels and its simplified consumer friendly wine description on the back, not to mention the price which is around £6.

The Head Honcho Chardonnay 2015 is an entry level wine so  I didn’t expect anything special, nothing to dislike but nothing to write home about either. Heady aromas of tropical fruits, pineapple, peach and mangoes, there was also a noticeable buttery nose.
Taste wise it had bright tropical fruits, touch on the sweet side which was almost slightly artificial. Did I enjoy it? well, it was OK but I do think a lot of people will like it.

Next, the  South African Zalze Bush Vine Chenin 2016 which was a wine selected by a member of our wine club ‘Cuvée Reserve’ for our monthly tasting in which we all take a turn at selecting a widely available bottle up to £10 to discuss and give our views.

Initially  I probably had this chilling for too long and the aromas were a little muted, but as the glass warmed up the nose became pretty full on with tropical fruits especially ripe pineapple, guava and peaches .
The tropical theme continued  in the tasting with the pineapple dominating but with some lemons and limes in the background giving it a fresh, crisp and bright hit in the mouth almost zingy.  Although fairly dry, there was a hint of sweetness as well which was appealing.

Overall thought this was pretty decent and probably worth the full price, I will say that it was even better 24hrs later as I had a little drop left, the flavours were more intense almost like a fresh fruit salad with a touch of cream. I also think that this would probably be even better aged for a little longer.

Lastly, the Mo Salinas Monastrell 2013 and definitely my favourite, from the Alicante region of south east Spain, which had a some what rustic charm about it. Made mostly with Monastrell (aka Mourvedre) with a splash of Garnacha and Cabernet.

Chilled this for about ten minutes as I often do with my reds. In the glass is was a deep purple with a nose of ripe bramble fruit, some smoke and a savoury, slightly earthy smell. On tasting this was medium bodied, with bright dark fruits, some spice, liquorice,  hint of oak. There was a hit of acidity giving it a fresh mouth-watering feel and it had moderate but noticeable tannins.

Nothing to complex but a very enjoyable bottle that I would certainly buy again and I have no hesitation in recommending if you want a fairly inexpensive midweek red.

6corks

Head Honcho Chardonnay 2015

My Rating 6/10 Corks

 

7.5corks

Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2016

My Rating 7.5/10 Corks

 

8corks

Mo Salinas Monastrell 2013

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Rioja Recognises Awards 2016

rioja-logoOn Wednesday the 3rd November 2016, thanks to courtesy of Brian Elliot of ‘MidWeek Wines’  and of course the Consejo Regulador of Rioja DOCa , I was lucky enough to be invited to the ‘Rioja Recognises’ awards in the swanky  Hispania Spanish restaurant in the heart of London’s financial area overlooked by the Bank of England. This was specially exciting for me as I have a love and passion for anything Spanish, especially wine and food.

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Sarah Jane Evans MW

The awards ceremony honoured four industry personalities for their contributions and significant impact they have had on Rioja in the UK. Hosted by Sarah Jane Evans MW (a previous winner in 2015)  esteemed guests including the Spanish Ambassador Mr Fredrico Trillo-Figueroa along with a host of retailers, buyers and celebrity wine experts.

riojarecognises2The evening featured top scoring Rioja wines from the recent 10×10 tasting in which a panel of judges selected and narrowed down ten of the best wines of  the region from a list of 100. To accompany these a fantastic selection of Tapas was served freshly prepared by the Hispania chefs including such delights as Iberico ham, chorizo (hot and cold), salami, croquettes, Spanish omelette and Paella rice.

Among the winners included Waitrose buyer Nick Room for his ‘Outstanding Contribution’, Cambridge Wine Merchant Hal Wilson for ‘Off-trade Personality of the year’, Ben Henshaw of Indigo wines for ‘Distributor of the year’ and last but not least celebrity broadcaster and writer Susy Atkins ‘ for Communicator of the year’.

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Although a great evening of celebrating these awards the real stars of the show were the wines themselves, the ten selected (2 whites, 1 Rosado and 7 reds) were all stunning and well received by everyone.

rioja-recognises-wine-list
List of the final wines selected from the earlier 10×10 tasting

My favourites were both the Chairs’ choices ‘La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva 2005‘ and the ‘Bodegas Olarra Summa Reserva 2011‘. The first ‘La Rioja Alta’ was a classic elegant Rioja with an intense aroma of bright cherry fruit, taste wise again cherries with fresh mouth-watering acidity, sweet vanilla, leather and ripe tannins. The Olarra was equally nice with a dusty aroma, along with a mouthful of cherries, strawberries, vanilla and spice.

Special mention for the ‘Atlanza Reserva Especial 2010‘ Bright and lively, good balance, touch of oak and ripe tannins.

Of the two whites the stand out for me was the ‘Bodegas Lecea Blanco Crianza 2012’, if you like your wines oaked this was full of wood, with some pear and a hint of banana, probably best drunk with food though.

All in all a great evening and a a wonderful celebration of what Rioja has to offer and congratulations to all the award winners.

Lastly on a personal note, I am hoping to do a road trip around Rioja for my 60th birthday in just over a years time, still in the planning stages and very much looking forward to it.

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